By Jaiden Schueller, communication intern in the Office of University Relations
As a result of President Michael R. Lovell’s Safety Task Force, the Marquette University Police Department has a new dedicated unit to address mental health crises. The Behavioral Health Unit is a partnership between law enforcement and a civilian crisis worker, which allows police to work with those in need of services who have, or could have, repeated contact with police.
Implemented in January 2023, the Behavioral Health Unit works with the Marquette Counseling Center to provide an opportunity for police to look to resources other than the criminal justice system when mental health concerns arise.
Historically, in response to mental health-related calls, MUPD has been limited to either citing an individual and releasing them shortly after or arresting them.
“With an in-house Behavioral Health Unit, we can work directly with those affected to get them the long-term help and the resources they need— not simply in the moment,” MUPD Lt. James Hensely says.
The Behavioral Health Unit will also allow for mental health-related calls to be directed toward the unit itself and let patrol officers continue more standard police work, such as addressing calls for service and patrolling the area.
Helping others in crisis
Amanda Laurila is the new MUPD Behavioral Health Unit crisis worker. Hired mid-January, Laurila went through weeks of training and is currently an active participant in the Behavioral Health Unit.
As a former police officer, Laurila uses her training to monitor and assess situations properly.
“As the crisis worker, my primary goal is to engage clients who have or are going through a mental health crisis, AODA (alcohol and other drug abuse) concerns and/or experiencing homelessness,” Laurila says. “I assess the situation and connect the appropriate service. This includes follow-ups via telephone and face-to-face. By doing this, it should reduce police time and calls for that client.”
She also works in conjunction with MUPD to support, educate and help with tasks that need additional support.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the change in our community, supporting Marquette, and making connections with Milwaukee County and private organizations,” Laurila says.
A safer campus equals a safer community
MUPD serves more than students, faculty and staff—the department serves all residents who live within its patrol boundaries.
“This unit allows the crisis response team to spend more time with students and community members in order to address the current needs with the hopes of reaching their individual long-term goals,” Laurila says.
“When you think about the traditional responsibilities of a police department, you think about protecting and serving. With the addition of the Behavioral Health Unit, we are now doing those very things at an extremely high level,” Hensley says.
Students, faculty, staff and surrounding residents can contact the Behavioral Health Unit directly if they witness a suspected mental health crisis.
“I don’t ever want a student to not reach out for help because they don’t feel comfortable with the process or because they don’t want a squad being sent to meet them,” Hensley says. “Students can call the BHU directly or call MUPD and ask for a member of our BHU, and the call will then be forwarded to the unit.”
Contact the Behavioral Health Unit directly at (414) 288-6196 or (414) 288-6290.